Today is Miss Xuan's birthday and in her honor I post this paragraph from my memoir.
The memoir covers the year I spent in Vietnam as a Marine Lieutenant working with Vietnamese school teachers and three return trips to visit two of those teachers. The paragraph comes at the end of a chapter in the memoir that discusses my first meal in Miss Xuan's home. It's July 1966 and Miss Xuan lives with her family in a small village north of Danang. The meal is bun bo and after the meal I receive an old cobwebbed pepper mill as a gift because I admire its unique qualities.
"Miss Xuan and her brother walk me out to my jeep. I wave goodbye and drive the bumpy road toward MASS-2. I'll write a letter to my wife, I say to myself while I keep an eye out for anything unusual at the dark edges of the road. I'll explain each detail of the evening. I'll send the pepper mill home. My wife will read the letter to our daughter and they will both enjoy my evening's experiences: the meal, the books on the shelves, the orangey brown color of the walls, the subdued lighting, the photos and miniature bananas on the altar, my pistol and web belt that sat too close to the altar, the dishes on the table, the celadon teacups, and the smiling, inquisitive, honey colored faces of my hosts. This visit to the home of Miss Xuan was a gift, like the old broken and cobweb-strewn pepper mill that I hold in my lap."